Sports betting in New York was always in a weird place, in regards to legality. You can actually place sports bets there, but you need to go to one of the four licensed casinos in the state and show your ID. Only after that, you are allowed to place a bet. Maybe this worked during the 90s, but we live in a digital age nowadays: If you are allowed to do this “in person”, why aren’t you allowed to do the same thing over the internet? Moreover, via mobile apps?
This was the thinking of the state senator Joseph Addabbo. However, he had a rival: Governor Cuomo. Mr. Cuomo is known for his negative attitude towards all forms of online gambling, and he kept using the same point over and over: The state constitution does not allow gambling, and the only way to change the constitution is a referendum, so we cannot change it.
Mr. Cuomo Does Not Like Online Gambling
This was a poor excuse, so senator Addabbo stated that it is possible to legalize mobile sports betting without changing anything. As long as the computer servers are physically located in New York, there should be no problem. The land-based casinos are already licensed, and the constitution allows them to offer their services legally, so it is more than possible to bring their services online. He was right and started working on a bill that proposes exactly that.
For a while, Mr. Cuomo played the nice guy and even stated that “yes, it is possible to legalize remote gambling like this”. New York Post has an article about the situation, dated May 2019. The article starts with the following sentence: “Cuomo says mobile sports betting could be legal by next month.”
The thing is, they were wrong: Very, very wrong.
New York State Assembly Rejects Mobile Sports Betting Bill
The Mobile Sports Betting Bill, prepared by Senator Addabbo, got rejected by the New York City Assembly. Now, this does not mean that “it got voted and lost”. No, the assembly rejected even the voting for the bill itself. They acted like it does not exist, at all. And this was a bill passed from the State with 57-5 voting, so nobody expected that. Carl Heastie, the Speaker of the Assembly explained the reason as “you need a referendum first – not a bill”.
So, at the moment, the only way of legalizing mobile sports betting in New York is changing the constitution, which will require a referendum. We are looking for a three-year process at least, that’s how long it takes to organize such an event.
Sports betting in New York is still limited to brick-and-mortar facilities, and you cannot use your fancy mobile phone to gamble. This decision costs the state millions of dollars every week and more importantly, encourages illegal gambling even more. In any case, don’t expect mobile gambling to become legal in New York for another three years: This will be a long wait.